Anyone who reads this blog knows that, ever since the 2012 SHOT Show, I’ve been very interested in the Caracal series of pistols. I’ve finally managed to secure a pair of Caracal F pistols in 9×19, and spent most of Wednesday at the NRA Headquarters Range shooting them in. The following is a record of my initial impressions.
The build quality on the Caracal is very good. There are no visible toolmarks inside or outside and no molding imperfections visible in the frame. All of the metal parts are nicely finished in Caracals ‘Plasox’ coating. The magazines are nicely welded steel, with heavy-duty nylon followers and floorplates. Overall, the Caracal gives every impression of being a high-quality pistol.
The Caracal magazines are dimensionally very similar to the Smith and Wesson M&P magazine. This is handy for me, because I have a bunch of M&P magazine carriers that I could press into service.
Both of my Caracals are full-sized models with the standard sight arrangement. One of the unusual features of the Caracal is that the rear sight is integral with the breechblock assembly and cannot be adjusted or (for now) changed out. The front sight is a conventional dovetailed post. Both front and rear sights feature white dots in a figure-8 configuration. Unfortunately, the dots are poorly regulated and the same size, meaning that the rear dot appears larger. Not usually how I like my sights. The rear notch is also much too narrow, and the pyramid shape of the rear sight makes it quite hard to get precise vertical alignment.
The overall ergonomics of the Caracal are very good. The grip frame is very comfortable and allows for a very high thumbs-forward grip. The grip is textured, although somewhat less than I usually prefer. The ambidextrous steel magazine release is a little bit on the small side, although I found that I could easily release the magazine with my strong-hand thumb. The slide stop is on the left side of the frame only, and is somewhat small and sharp, but still more or less functional (I always release the slide with my strong-hand thumb.)
The trigger on the Caracal deserves special mention – it is, quite simply the best trigger on a polymer pistol, ever. It is a smooth rolling break at about four pounds, a short and positive reset, and no noticeable overtravel. The trigger action was the first factor that got me interested in the Caracal series.
I fired about 200 rounds of my USPSA Minor handloads (147grn. Berrys plated bullet, Hodgdon Titegroup, Winchester primer, 900fps. avg.) and fifty rounds of 124grn. CCI M882CF, over the course of about two hours. The Caracal is generally pretty pleasant to shoot, even with the +P pressure M882CF. I ran some basic draw, reload, and recoil control drills, and while the pistol ergonomics and trigger were excellent, the poor sight arrangement proved a hinderance when rapidly engaging small targets. My best time for drawing and firing two rounds into a 3×5 card at 7 yards, was 2.4 seconds (from concealment.) Slide-lock reloads ran about 2.0 seconds from concealment, which is on par with my times for similar guns. I did manage three sub-6.0 second FAST Drills towards the end of the practice session, which is not bad for a brand new pistol.
Both pistol functioned perfectly, but had an occasional tendency to bounce empty cases off of my forehead. Annoying, but not exactly the end of the world.
I would rate the long-range accuracy of the Caracal as poor. I was able to shoot consistent 2″ groups at 10 yards, but the group size exploded out at 25 yards, to over 8″ with significant vertical stringing. The group size and POI was consistent across both types of ammo.
Although the Caracal F is a really nice pistol to shoot, the accuracy at 25 yards was more than a little disappointing. 8″+ groups at 25 yards is just not good enough for serious competition. The sight arrangement is also sub-optimal (and likely contributes to the accuracy issue.) Between these two problems, I’m not planning on switching over from my current USPSA/IDPA pistols quite yet. I do plan on continuing with the testing, so we’ll see if I can get some of these issues resolved. A replacement rear sight and better groups at 25 yards would make the Caracal F an impressive pistol indeed.